The cat is one of the most recent domestic animals. In spite of its coexistence with humans, it still has an independent nature and the perfect hunting instincts of a solitary hunter. It is highly individualistic and should not have undergone successful domestication at all.
The progenitor of the domestic cat is the African subspecies of wild cat (Felis silvestris lybica). Domestication of the cat occurred in Egypt from 4000 to 2000 B.C. Preserved cat mummies provide dometication evidence. The oldest are of tamed cats from the 4000 B.C. period while mummies from the end of the Middle Kingdom period are of domesticated cats. The domesticated cats have shortened skulls and often irregular denture. The cat likely started its coexistence with humans voluntarily and to the benefit of both sides. Wild cats were drawn together into the Nile Valley because of the number of rodents that accompany human settlements. They quickly became common domesctic animals and they achieved the status of sacred animal of the goddess Bastet. The domestic cat has spread from Egypt throughout the Mediterranean and reached southern Europe in 500 B.C. The cat came to the east with merchants to Turkey, Persia, and along the silk road to China and Southeast Asia. It penetrated Central Europe at the beginning of the Middle Ages. Benedictine monks were the first true cat breeders (they also bred the first rabbits and pigeons in Europe). Feral cat populations exist on many islands and threaten the populations of local insular animals.
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